Administration

Trump backs narrow bill halting family separations: official

President Trump would support a stand-alone bill ending his administration’s controversial policy of separating children from their families who illegally cross the U.S. southern border, according to a White House official. 

The official, who requested anonymity to describe the White House’s thinking, said on Wednesday the president wants Congress to pass legislation to stop what he sees as “loopholes” in immigration law that create family separations.

Trump has already said he would support two broad measures drafted by House Republicans that would also fund a border wall and make cuts to legal immigration. 

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The White House is now sending a signal, however, that it is open to a wider range of measures to end the policy, which is facing mounting opposition at home and abroad.

But whether Trump would sign a narrower bill will depend on the final product, according to the official. Lawmakers are weighing a number of stand-alone measures aimed at ending family separations.

All Senate Democrats back a measure introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), but Republicans say it is too lenient on illegal immigration.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has introduced a bill that would require most children be kept with their family members while also creating an “expedited process” to process immigrants’ asylum claims. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) is also working on his own measure. 

The competing proposals show how Republican lawmakers are struggling to address the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, where roughly 2,000 children have been separated from their families and placed in juvenile detention centers as a result of Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration.

Democrats, and many Republicans, have pointed out no legislation is needed to end the practice of family separations and that Trump could terminate the policy on his own.

“President Trump could stop this policy with a phone call,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on CNN last Friday. “If you don’t like families being separated, you can tell DHS, ‘stop doing it.’ ”

But Trump and his allies have argued that Congress is the only entity that can resolve the crisis because they claim it is the result of a tangled patchwork of immigration laws.

The House is set to vote Thursday on both immigration bills, which contain many of the priorities Trump laid out last fall. It’s unclear, however, if those measures can pass the House, because Democrats and some Republicans oppose language that would reduce the number of immigrants who are able to enter the U.S.

“We’re trying to pass this legislation right now,” Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters Wednesday when asked if he would back stand-alone legislation. “When other situations arise … we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

Trump attended a closed-door meeting with House GOP lawmakers on Tuesday night where he said he would sign either measure being voted on this week. 

“In his remarks, he endorsed both House immigration bills that build the wall, close legal loopholes, cancel the visa lottery, curb chain migration and solve the border crisis and family separation issue by allowing for family detention and removal,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement. “He told the members, ‘I’m with you 100 percent.’ ”

Because those measures face an uncertain future in Congress, lawmakers have already begun to consider narrower measures intended to address the issue.

Pressure has continued to grow on Trump to stop the practice of family separation. In an interview with Reuters, Pope Francis called it “contrary to our Catholic values” and “immoral.”

“It’s not easy, but populism is not the solution,” Francis said.

Tags Dianne Feinstein Donald Trump Lindsey Graham Mark Meadows Paul Ryan Ted Cruz

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